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- Der Siedlungsplatz Ugab Crossing (R. Spiech)
Abstract: The publication contains the full text of 10 petitions and submissions by the Witbooi group during the first 40 years of South African rule in Namibia. The main bulk of the texts refers to 1919 and 1922, i.e. to the first stages of South African reserve policy. These texts contain a detailed account of Witbooi experience since the defeat of the great rising as well as a programme of restitution, motivated by reference to the bequest of the old Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi. Later and shorter documents allow glimpses at the ways leading Witbooi personalities tried to come to grips with their deep disappointment about the reality of South African rule in Namibia. The importance of these documents consists in direct testimony, while the record is generally very heavily biased towards administrative views.
Zusammenfassung: Die Veröffentlichung enthält den vollständigen Text von 10 Petitionen und Eingaben der Witbooi-Gruppe aus den ersten 40 Jahren südafrikanischer Herrschaft in Namibia. Die größte Textmenge bezieht sich dabei auf 1919 und 1922, also auf die erste Phase südafrikanischer Reservatspolitik. Diese Texte enthalten eine ausführliche Darstellung der Schicksale der Witbooi nach der Niederlage im großen Aufstand und zugleich eine Skizze ihrer Vorstellungen für den Wiederaufbau nach dem Vermächtnis des alten Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi. Die späteren und kürzeren Dokumente zeigen ausschnitthaft die Auseinandersetzung führender Witbooi mit der tiefen Enttäuschung über die tatsachlichen Folgen der südafrikanischen Herrschaft. Ihre Bedeutung erhalten die Dokumente dadurch, daß Kolonisierte hier selbst zu Wort kommen, während schriftliche Quellen zumeist die Sichtweise der Verwaltung wiedergeben.
Introduction: Endeavours to make heard the voice of colonised people run into difficulties, since written records are usually those of the colonial administration. In Namibia too, past concerns of traditional communities have to be culled, apart from oral sources, from the files of their rulers. Even formal verbatim records of meetings have been prepared by colonial administrators. Files on southern Namibia generally contain only a few short texts of petitions by traditional communities themselves. Examples of this genre are available from the Witbooi group and have been included in this article. Long accounts of the concerns and experiences of traditional communities by their spokespersons are rare.
This publication has been motivated therefore by the particular importance of the three larger texts which now form its core. All these texts allow glimpses into a reality for which they may provide the most authentic sources available from those who have been subjected to colonial administration. Over and above this, an account is given especially in the longer pieces of the experiences and sufferings of members of the Witbooi and other Nama groups during the decade between the defeat of the great rising and the advent of the South African troops in 1915.
This forms an indispensable authentic background to the way these groups related to the new colonial power and their increasingly conflictual relationship with it. The defeat of the great Nama rising which had started in 1904 and the savage reprisal meted out by the German colonial power proved an incisive turning point for many traditional communities in Southern Namibia. In present-day terms, the immediate aftermath amounted to ethnocide. Significantly, the station missionary at Gibeon, the traditional capital of the Witbooi group, saw a necessity to minister to a largely Herero instead of Nama speaking congregation, on account of the large-scale removals of Nama groups to the northern part of the Police Zone, while surviving Herero were brought South to satisfy requirements for farm labour there.
For the Witbooi, this meant deportation first to Windhoek, from where many were brought to Shark Island near Luderitz. Others were transported as far away as Togo and the Cameroons. The heavy losses of lives sustained during these predicaments, as recounted in the following documents, are corroborated by missionary reports from the spots were the Witboois were brought for detention. One group in Dschang, Cameroon, which included both men and women, not registered a single birth by late 1912. After their return to Namibia, they along with other members of their tribe were settled in the Northern part of the Police Zone, mostly in the Grootfontein area. While some Witbooi managed to return during the following years, the bulk, including the sons of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi, could only return with the change of the colonial power following South African military occupation in 1915. [...]